The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) unanimously passed a resolution calling for mandatory reselection (MR) – whereby all Labour MPs will need to have their selection reconfirmed before each general election instead receiving an effective ‘free pass’ via the current complicated and easily stacked ‘trigger ballot’ system – at its June annual conference in Brighton this year. The resolution, moved by West Midlands FBU, had the full support of the delegates present.
The resolution comes at a time that the left in the West Midlands is building a movement to tackle the ingrained hold that the right has maintained over the Labour Party in the region.
The support of firefighters for MR and the origin of the resolution in the West Midlands will come as major blow for the Labour right, which was already rocked by the decision of the party to mount investigations into serious allegations of corruption and anti-democratic practices in Sandwell – even before the recent appointment of solid left-winger Fadel Takrouri as the region’s new regional director.
With Labour’s conference to take place next month, the impetus toward MR is building and the FBU’s decision comes on top of a similar resolution by the conference of Unite, one of Labour’s biggest unions.
Andrew Scattergood, FBU West Midlands regional secretary, who moved the resolution at conference had some strong words to say on the subject:
Bringing real democracy to the Labour Party is essential. That’s why I’m urging all delegates to Labour Party conference to support mandatory reselection. Allowing members to have a real say over who represents them and how they can hold them to account is vital if we are to have any chance of achieving our main goal: to bring about a society which has the working-class bests interests at its core under a socialist government.
Jeremy Corbyn has, since first elected as leader, established himself as by the far Labour’s best leader, perhaps since Kier Hardie himself, representing the aims and values of the vast majority of the Party membership. This means so his enemies’ only hope is to do all they can to disrupt him by undermining him in parliament and in the press at every opportunity – actively working to reduce the chances of a Labour government.
This is nowhere more prevalent that here in the West Midlands. But if they’re able to fight dirty, then we should be able to respond. If an MP finds themselves so far from their own memberships’ wavelength, aims and values, then it is not unfair to provide CLPs [constituency Labour parties] with an effective and democratic tool to aide change.
Labour MPs who truly engage with their CLPs should not fear mandatory reselection. Those MPs who work hard, who represent their constituents, whose parliamentary and constituency work align to Labour values and aims should welcome this democratic vehicle for them to be able to show how effective they have been and re-establish their authority and mandate before each general election.
This isn’t about taking away an MP’s ability to hold their own views or to make parliamentary decisions. It’s about them being accountable for their views or decisions to their CLPs, something every Labour MP should embrace eagerly.
The current process for holding MPs to account by their CLP membership stinks of entitlement; means that some truly believe that being a representative in a democratic country is a job for life, where you cannot even be questioned on your activities of representation let alone be held accountable.
A lifetime’s entitlement to a parliamentary seat is utterly undemocratic and in many cases selects and retains an MP who just doesn’t represent the Labour Party or the working class. Many people, those who knock on doors week in week out, will know that entitlement in the Labour Party is a barrier to democracy that we have to eradicate.
The message to those MPs who ride on the coat-tails of the Labour Party – the very Labour Party formed for and by working class activists and trade unionists, those MPs who rely on the Labour Party name to get elected every general election but refuse to engage with the members who put them there – is simple:
To serve as a Labour MP is an honour, not a right. You are there because the members put you there. Some have forgotten that, and it’s up to us to remind them.
Mr Scattergood’s words will resonate with the vast majority of Labour’s membership – and with Unite and other unions expected to back mandatory reselection in Liverpool next month, they are likely to get their wish – as long as the right does not succeed in its eleventh-hour machinations to keep the issue off the conference agenda.
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